Israel After Coronavirus: A Once-in-200-years Opportunity for Feminism?

“My husband has been helping me with the babies and the laundry. He’s been really considerate,” I heard one woman telling a friend of hers last week. “Really?” the other woman responded with a snarl. “My husband doesn’t do cleaning. It’s not in his nature.”

This casual conversation in line at a supermarket embodies more than 200 years of economic and gender inequality, a period during which men and women have been repeatedly taught that the words "household responsibilities" and "women" go hand-in-hand, as do "masculinity" and the "workplace."

>> Read more: Israel After Coronavirus: One Crisis, One State – Including the Palestinians

>> Read more: Israel After Coronavirus: Cutting Back May Be Painful but It's Good for Us

Then the coronavirus came along. At first glance, it appears that the virus burst through an open door of gender inequality and exacerbated it. Women are generally more likely to be laid off from their jobs and bear greater responsibility for housework; they are also more likely to be victims of violence. But another look may reveal that the lockdown at home that most of Israel’s population has been subjected to has also offered a one-time chance to eliminate old gender patterns.

Women walking in Jerusalem, during the lockdown. Perhaps the virus understood before we did that equality requires not only women in pants, but also men in skirts. Ohad Zwigenberg

Feminists hadn’t even dreamed of demanding it, but for the first time in 200 years, men have returned to the domestic realm.

It’s sometimes difficult to remember, but until the early 19th century, the “natural” division of labor between men and women was entirely different. They worked together at home, and the housework women do now without pay was considered a type of "labor" performed within one's household.